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Baltimore lawmakers stress fairness in COVID-19 vaccine rollout; state responds with new initiative

Baltimore lawmakers stress equity in COVID-19 vaccine rollout; state responds with new initiative

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Monday, March 1, 2021
Tyler Waldman, WBAL NewsRadio 1090 and FM 101.5

Echoing concerns from Mayor Brandon Scott, the Baltimore City state Senate delegation sent a letter Monday to Gov. Larry Hogan calling Baltimore’s COVID-19 vaccine allocation “inequitable.” Shortly after the letter was sent, officials announced moves to expand vaccine access to city residents.

At last week’s opening of the state-run mass-vaccination site at M&T Bank Stadium, Hogan said the city had more vaccines allocated to it than it should. Though two of Maryland’s three mass-vaccination sites are in the city, those sites are open to residents from anywhere in the state.

The senators, including Senate President Bill Ferguson, said the city should be supplied with vaccinations commensurate with the impact the coronavirus has had on the city. Four of the state’s 12 ZIP codes with the highest number of confirmed cases are in the city. Also, as a majority-Black jurisdiction, comorbidities like diabetes and heart disease are more common among city residents.

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However, fewer than 40% of those vaccinated in the city have been city residents and only 6% of Black Baltimoreans have been vaccinated.

“Thus, we are asking for greater collaboration to ensure City residents are vaccinated,” the lawmakers wrote.

Listen: Senator Cory McCray who chairs the Baltimore City Senate Delegation talks about their letter to the governor on WBAL News Now Extra.

They said that according to state health officials’ own figures, the city will receive significantly fewer doses per capita than neighboring Baltimore County. They noted Baltimore City’s efforts to reach seniors and other underserved communities with the vaccines.

“This pandemic will continue to impact the public health and economic well-being of our city and state until we ensure an equitable distribution of the vaccine,” the lawmakers wrote. “More must be done to ensure that Baltimore City residents, especially our older adults and our residents with pre-existing health challenges laid bare by this pandemic, are able to get the vaccine.”

Listen: Baltimore City Senator Mary Washington questions Acting Health Secretary Dennis Schrader during a Monday meeting of the Senate vaccine work group

Shortly after the letter became public, state officials announced the Baltimore Convention Center Field Hospital, a public-private partnership of the Maryland Department of Health, University of Maryland Medical System and Johns Hopkins Medicine, announced plans to prioritize Baltimoreans in six high-vulnerability ZIP codes for appointments at the convention center vaccination site.

“This innovative program gives us another powerful tool to reach vulnerable communities with safe and effective vaccines,” acting Health Secretary Dennis Schrader said in a statement. “This is an all-hands-on-deck undertaking, and I want to thank our partners for their commitment to ensuring equitable access to vaccines.”

Listen: Acting Health Secretary Dennis Schrader explains to members of the Senate Vaccine Work Group on the changes to the Baltimore Convention Center vaccine site. 

Officials said they have worked to ensure that more than 40% of those eligible for vaccinations at the convention center are city residents.

Going forward, the field hospital will prioritize people from underserved Baltimore communities and seek to fill as many appointments as possible with those residents. Staff will expand outreach into those communities in the coming weeks.

People in vulnerable communities who need help registering for a vaccine may call 443-462-5511 from 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. on weekdays to schedule an appointment. Patients may also register online.

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